Australia plans to reopen its borders for vaccinated international tourists within two weeks, The Associated Press reported.
In a statement on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he and his Cabinet have agreed to reopen the border for vaccinated individuals on Feb. 21.
Morrison referred in his statement to last month’s controversy surrounding Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, who was deported by Australian authorities due to not being vaccinated against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“Events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message, I think, to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia,” Morrison said.
Since March 2020, Australia has imposed some of the world’s toughest virus restrictions on its citizens, while limiting foreign travelers to skilled immigrants and some seasonal workers.
When its borders reopen later this month, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said visitors can also apply for a travel exemption if they prove a medical reason why they could not be vaccinated, according to the AP.
International visitors will also have to follow the country’s various states’ COVID-19 policies if they move around the country.
Australia initially planned to reopen its border in November but delayed the measure after two students who returned from South Africa tested positive for the omicron variant.
Peter Shelley, director of the Australian Tourism Export Council, shared his excitement about the reopening of borders in a statement to the AP.
“It’s been a long, hard and desperate road for every tourism business across the country and we have lost many along the way, but this news will give those who have survived a clear target to work towards and a start point for the rebuilding of the industry.”